Having been a wedding consultant for more than nineteen years, I have experienced the happiest of weddings. Those that I find most memorable are the ones where the bride and the groom and both sets of parents are involved in the planning. Every bride and groom ask me: “How can we make our wedding different? What can we do to make it memorable rather than just like everyone else’s wedding?” I always have the same answer for every bride and groom: “Personalize it! Don’t worry about trying to outdo someone else or trying to make it different!”
Here are some tips that I have experienced in planning more than nine hundred weddings. Along with these ideas, I have included the names of some of the vendors that made them happen.
The Wedding Gown
- Many brides really do want to wear their mother’s gown. The reality is that not only are gowns sometimes not wearable, i.e. time and improper storage has caused the fabric to be damaged or discolored (Christine Morrissey: National Gown Cleaners (408) 241 3490), but the shape of women has changed from previous generations. In years past women were more involved with manual labor and chores. Because of that the shape of the body was different. That’s not to say that the modern woman has grown soft and flabby. Quite the opposite. Women of the current generation exercise more deliberately and tend to have better body tone and shape. So, the gown of a previous generation simply often does not fit the modern bride. That’s not to say that the mother’s gown cannot be put to good use. Don’t let it continue to sit in the box and deteriorate. As awful as it sounds: cut up that gown! Make a ring bearer pillow, a flower girl dress, use the fabric and lace in the bridal bouquet and boutonniere. If there is an abundance of fabric, create a beautiful overlay for the bridal table. Or use pieces woven in and around the floral arrangements, bows for the bride’s and groom’s chairs. The possibilities are endless.
- One particularly wonderful idea I had for one of three daughters’ weddings that I did in Texas was that we had a seamstress create the flower girl’s dress in the same design as the expensive designer gown that the bride wore.
- Be attentive to the ceremonial area. A bride of mine was to have her ceremony on a beautiful winding stairway in a gorgeous Atherton, California home. Above the stairwell was a skylight with wonderful stained glass of lavender, pink and green irises. I suggested: “Why not design the attendants’ gowns and the bouquets and other decorations to reflect the colors in that skylight?” The bride loved the idea, and we did just that We kept it a secret and were curious if anyone would notice. Sure enough, when the bride and groom returned from the honeymoon, she called to tell me how lovely things were and that she was ecstatic to walk through the reception and overhear a guest comment to another: “Wasn’t it beautiful how the dresses and flowers matched the skylight? I wonder if they did that deliberately?” I can assure you, all my brides and I are deliberate, and very conspiratorial! The bride told me, “You know Robbi, little things mean a lot. I figured that you and I would be the only people that noticed that tiny detail!”
Flowers and Decoration
- The staff of June Wedding, Inc. (JWI) planned many weddings at The Hamlin Mansion in San Francisco. But one stands out in memory: The ceremony was to take place in a large round room, the very center of the mansion. Leading off from the central room were five rooms with doors that opened into them. In these rooms the guests would have a formal sit down dinner after the ceremony and cocktail reception in the center room. At one of our meetings with the florist (Laura Little of Floramor Studios 415 864 0145) I listened carefully and took notes as the bride selected the colors and types of flowers to be used in the bouquets and centerpieces. Her flowers of choice were wonderful shades of purple, violet and lavender. Upon returning to the JWI Salon on Post Street in downtown San Francisco, I called the caterer and suggested that instead of the serving staff bringing out the salads and placing them on the table after the guests were seated, that instead we have the salads in place before the guests came into the room AND that the chef put radicchio in the salad (for those on a more restricted budget purple cabbage works just as well). The doors to the dining rooms were opened to drum rolls and trumpets playing Vivaldi’s Trumpet Fanfare. The sight was all but overwhelming and quite dramatic. The attention of the guests was drawn to the dining rooms. The tables looked like fabulous bouquets. Today all professional caterers use flowers that not only enhance the dining tables or serving trays but are also edible. And, it doesn’t add a penny to the cost! Now, mind you, be tasteful! Use the flowers to accentuate a dish, not to overwhelm it. After all, you don’t want your guests going away talking about how they ate your bridal bouquet.
- Speaking of bouquets, have you considered saving this once (well, maybe twice) in a life time floral arrangement that is so special to you on your wedding day? Do at least think about it. One of the nation’s experts in proper floral preservation is Sentimental Reason. They have clients internationally. Your bouquet can be shipped overnight to them. The bouquet and boutonniere are taken apart, freeze dried and then reassembled as originally designed in a framed format or recreated into a beautiful centerpiece.
- Personalizing your wedding means making certain that your loved ones (your parents and wedding party) are not forgotten. Remember, they’ve been your esprit de corps in your months of planning. Have floral arrangements in their hotel rooms or at their home the day before the wedding. For a special affect, have the florist use the same flowers that will be in the wedding bouquets and arrangements. Don’t forget to enclose a “love note”; remember, we are “personalizing” your wedding.
- We are talking to the bride AND the groom! A romantic thing for the groom to do is have arrangements of flowers sent to the bride’s home, the parents’ homes AND, if you really want your bride to know you are a classy gentleman, have flowers in the honeymoon suite awaiting your arrival. Add a bottle of champagne, wine or non-alcoholic wine (the same brand as served at the wedding)and you’re promised a wonderful feeling. To keep that romance going, write down the names and colors of the flowers and file it. On your anniversaries, pull out that list and call your favorite florist. Too, the new bride or wife can order a fresh boutonniere to be present in your room on the honeymoon and all of your anniversaries to come. I once had a bride who had a passion for gardenias. Fortunately she was sensible and recognized that gardenias have a powerful fragrance. One should consider twice before using them in abundance as centerpieces for the dinner tables. Actually one should avoid any floral fragrance that is going to compete with the aromas and flavors of the food. The bride flew her wedding party into San Francisco and hosted them at the world famous Pan Pacific Hotel. The bride and groom ordered gardenias floating in shallow water filled clear glass containers and sent to the rooms of the parents and the wedding party. Later, I called the florist and ordered similar gardenia arrangements to be placed on the couple’s nightstand of their honeymoon suite in Bora Bora.
- Is your wedding or reception taking place in the town hall, the local Elks’ Lodge or Knights of Columbus Hall? Not to worry. Cover those pictured covered walls with hanging drapes of fabric from ceiling to floor. Use a color that compliments your wedding flowers and attendants’ dresses. Later the fabric can be sewn into table clothes and given as gifts. For an even more dramatic flare, up-light the walls….”wash” them in color.
- Have different flavors for the tiers. Serve your guests smaller portions of two flavors.
- One of my brides and grooms getting married in a California French Chateau decided to be very bold. They had their cake designer make a small traditional fondant cake as “the wedding cake”. For each dining table, instead of using floral arrangements, Morgan designed individual cakes using fondant and rolled white chocolate (some she colored)shaped into woven baskets containing hand sculpted, edible grapes and grape leaves with a small bottle of champagne wrapped partially in similar fondant or rolled chocolate. After the bride and groom cut THEIR cake and posed for photographs, to the amazement of the guests, a waiter removed the table centerpieces, set them onto serving carts next to each table and began cutting and serving the centerpieces! So realistic were the “basket of grapes and leaves” that the guests did not realize it was dessert!
Caketops and Cake Decorations
- Stay away from those ugly white plastic columns (or have the pastry chef cover them with icing).
- Instead of the cheap looking plastic and tulle bride and groom caketop, use fresh flowers, pastry molded and shaped flowers, an elegant Lladro statue, a favorite memento that is precious to the bride and groom. Or, if you or someone close saves “collectibles”, consider borrowing a favorite piece or add or start your own collection with your caketop.
- Be creative: Two of my clients had met on a back-packing excursion and began making back-packing trips together. In addition to the wedding cake, we had a groom’s cake. The pastry chef created a “hillside forest” with blue food coloring to give the semblance of a stream running through the woods. Ken and Barbie dolls were costumed in back-packing and hiking attire and placed on one of the “trails” of the cake. Another couple had met in a hot-tub (I don’t ask too many questions). The groom built a miniature hot tub with a working pump and bubbling water. The wedding cake was created around the “hot-tub” in the center of the top tier. Ken and Barbie were this time outfitted in bathing suits and sat as if relaxing in a whirlpool of water bubbling around them.
- A favorite of my creative but tasteful cake ideas had to do with the attendants’ gifts. The theme of the wedding was art-deco, black and white. A specially designed simple zebra striped cake was ordered for the rehearsal dinner. We had the cake designer make rolled chocolate boxes with lids that could be removed. The actual gifts were elegantly wrapped and then placed each in a chocolate box. The pastry chef finished the box by creating lovely rolled chocolate ribbons and bows wrapped around the lid and box. They were then painted in lovely pastels. After the rehearsal dinner, the waiters brought each box on a dessert plate and placed it in front of the attendant. Everyone gushed, oohed and ahhed. The bride’s and groom’s eyes twinkled mischievously as the guests began to cut into the dessert with their forks, only to find that as they peeled back the covering, inside was the wrapped gift. Everyone got such merriment at the surprise. I’ve since called the idea, “Having your cake and eating it too!”
The groom should present his attendants with proper formal socks if formal attire is to be worn. Obviously this should be in addition to the actual attendants’ gifts. This seems like a silly idea until you realize that many of the formal photographs with the men holding the bride up in their arms, hiking their legs up on a chair or even when all the attendants are posed for full length family and group pictures. You would be surprised how even navy blue, or thick woolly, fuzzy socks and shear fabric socks contrast in group pictures. Besides the length of the slacks, which sometimes are tailored too short (but more often than not are several inches too long!), it is the clashing of colors and fabric that stand out in otherwise beautiful group photos.
Other ways to personalize your wedding
- If the two of you enjoy dancing, then sign up and take weekly dance lessons. Besides the basic fox trot or waltz and learning to dance properly, why not be courageous: learn a tango or a cha-cha. Most wedding consultants and advisors are against this idea. They say you’ll be too nervous, and you don’t want to make fools of yourselves in front of your family and closest of friends. I disagree. What better place to be fun and foolish than with your family and friends. In reality, you have anywhere from six months to a year as you plan your wedding. If you go to dance lessons weekly or even twice a month and learn to dance not only with one another, but with others in the class, you will have the new dance down to perfection. And why not show off? The entire wedding day is theater anyway. That special dance is just another opportunity for the two of you to be playful and have a good time. The added gift of dance lessons is that it gives still another opportunity for the two of you to do something together. They do say that swimming and dancing are amongst the best exercises!
- A favorite JWI wedding was that of a Greek and Turkish couple (The Wall Street Journal flew one of their editors in from New York and she wrote it up in a lengthy article that appeared on the front page of the June 26, 1987 issue). Besides ethnic food from both families, we brought in Greek and Turkish dancers who danced first as individual groups, then together as a unity, and then with all of the guests joining in. Besides having fun, it was a beautiful symbol of two becoming one!
- Get a theme and carry it through the entire party: One of our clients flew the entire wedding party and parents into the California wine country. The staff of June Wedding, Inc. arranged parties and outings for more than a week. For the attendants and sets of parents, we had floral arrangements done in a basket with a “hot air balloon” design atop the flowers and fresh grapes. We took several tours of the wine country and Domain Chandon, home of the famous champagne. For favors, we presented beautiful rounds of soap embossed with the names, wedding date AND a hot air balloon. At the reception site the bride, groom and guests were scheduled for an early morning champagne (Domain Chandon, of course) breakfast. The JWI staff went around to all the rooms at the appropriate time and assembled the guests out into the parking lot that was next to the dining room. There, to complete the theme of the wedding, stood before them a huge beautiful multicolor hot air balloon with the captain and the newslyweds inside the basket readying for takeoff. How excited and amazed the guests were that no one had thought of the idea or made a connection between the favors, the flower arrangements and the “get away trip”. As you set about planning your wedding, remember, the most important thing is happiness and joy. You should have the wedding of your dreams and of your pocketbook. You don’t have to spend outrageous amounts of money to have a beautiful and memorable wedding. All you have to do is make certain that it is personable and from your hearts.